Think of German mobile cranes and most people who know anything about the industry will think of big machines getting bigger by the year. The trend, the consensus has it, is for ever stronger machines. Instead of the 25t to 35t capacity mobile being the standard piece of lifting kit, today it is the 50t to 70t range that is the industry standard.

And think specifically of Demag, and even bigger machines may spring to mind, like the massive CC12600 with its maximum lifting capacity of 1600t.

And yet it is a far more humble machine that is proving to be Demag’s big hit lately. The 25t capacity AC75 was launched just over a year ago and is the smallest machine in Demag’s range. Since the first machines rolled off the production line at the Wallerscheid factory in March 1997, already close to 100 have been sold in Europe.

Demag is more used to fighting for claims of biggest and longest. Instead, the AC75 lays claims to be smallest and shortest in its class, with its 6.7m overall carrier length, clearance height of below 3m, 2.42m width and 20t transport weight.

The 25m boom has a two-part folding jib to allow a maximum tip height of more than 40m.

Aimed firmly at urban, restricted access, or even indoor, applications, buyers last year in the UK alone include Baldwins (which bought 10), Adberweld in Yeovil, John Hewitts of Middlesbrough, Bob Francis Crane Hire, Cashlifts and building contractor John Sisk. In Ireland Dublin’s Trackline Engineering has also taken delivery of an AC75.

The Japanese, however, have long been known for their special ability to turn out slick, compact products with strong market appeal, and this applies as much to cranes as to electronic goods. And it is they, not Demag, who invented the concept of what has become called the City Crane, with the distinctive boom-down appearance. Kobelco’s RK70 began production in 1989 and the Komatsu LW80 first appeared in 1991.

But it is Kato that has decided to challenge Demag’s recently acquired European lead in this market and has launched its CR250 in Europe. Kato’s MR220 first appeared in Japan in 1992 and has since sold 3,000 units there. Like other Japanese manufacturers it also has a 10t model, the MR100. But it is the 25t machine that has been adapted for Europe and is badged the CR250.

Kato’s City Crane has not previously been available in Europe not only because of the unfavourable exchange rates but also because all production was being soaked up by the Japanese market.

It is being marketed in Europe by Kato’s dealer Kranlyft, which in October played host to a delegation of nearly 200 crane users and hire companies, mostly from Scandinavia and the UK, at its Gothenburg headquarters in Sweden.

The CR250 is 9.05m long and 2.39m wide, making it longer but slimmer than the Demag AC75. Having duties with the jacks straight down as well as on extended outriggers, it can work within its own width, unlike the Demag, Kato says.

It also boasts twin winches with rooster sheave and a line pull of 4t as standard, compared with Demag’s line pull of less than 3t.

Both machines have fully powered booms. At 28m, the CR250’s boom is 3m longer than the AC75, but the AC75 has much longer folding jib of 7.1m/13.0m against Kato’s 5.4m/8.2m, giving the AC75 a 2m advantage in maximum tip height.

On the other hand, the CR250’s fly jib has offsets of 5o, 25o and 45o. The AC75 has 0o and 30o positions.

The CR250 has the slightly bigger engine, a 220HP Mitsubishi against a 212HP Perkins, but the AC75 is faster on road, reaching 85km/h against the CR250’s 49km/h.

When it comes to lifting capacity, the AC75 can pick 25t at 3m; the CR250 picks 25t at 2.8m and 22t at 3m. It is a slight advantage that the AC75 maintains throughout the lifting chart.

Who wins the battle for Europe will be fascinating to watch. Demag has a head start. But Kato has the experience, and is winning orders swiftly. In the UK and Ireland alone, nine had been placed before the October visit to Gothenburg; three more orders were placed as a direct result of it.

Kato dealers believe they will soon catch up the head start that the Japanese allowed Demag to have in Europe. Let battle be joined!